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Gage's warriors battle for child with rare form of cancer

Sept. 6, 2011 at 4:06 a.m.
Updated Sept. 8, 2011 at 4:08 a.m.

Gage Garnett, 17 months, plays with his father, Greg Garnett, as his mother, Jennifer, laughs in their home.  Gage was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis in January. He travels to Houston with his family once a week to get chemotherapy at Texas Children's Hospital. Convenant Life Church is having a benefit  in October to help his family pay their medical bills for Gage.

Gage Garnett's high-pitch laugh echoes throughout the living room.

The 17-month-old flails his arms as he runs across the carpeted floor.

He falls onto his bottom, laughing more.

This wouldn't seem like the personality of a child with cancer, but it is.

"He's a boy through and through," his mother, Jennifer Garnett, said as she watched Gage play with his 10-year-old twin brothers, Grant and Gunner.

Gage was diagnosed with Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis, a cancer characterized by the abnormal growth of histiocyte cells found in the bone marrow.

The disease is the opposite of leukemia, which is the abnormal growth of white blood cells.

On Oct. 1, the family's church, Covenant Life Center, will host a benefit to help with the family's medical expenses, which began in January, when Gage was diagnosed.

Gage's mother and father noticed symptoms that weren't adding up.

He was frequently crying and had a rash on his cradle cap on his head.

He wasn't the playful boy he had always been and he was "somber," his mother said.

"He'd always been so playful," his father, Greg Garnett, said.

The family took him to see Dr. Gary Cox, a Victoria doctor, who had seen a similar case while studying in school.

For this, the family was grateful.

"I told him I was very proud of him," Gage's mother said. "Dr. Cox, he saved his life."

After the initial diagnosis, the family found Dr. Kenneth McClain, director of the Texas Children's Hospital Histiocytosis program.

McClain's understanding of the disease and his credibility helped ease the family's worries some, Gage's parents said.

Gage's parents were both raised in Victoria, but they moved to Fort Worth for Gage's father's job.

In January, the family decided to move back to Victoria to be closer to family, at the same time, Gage was diagnosed, which made the transition much more difficult, they said.

"Take the birth of your children, the death of your parents, add exhaustion and that's what you're going through for months," Gage's father said as an example of what the pain would feel like.

Dealing with the six-hour long chemotherapy treatments in Houston every Wednesday is not the only stress that comes with the disease. Cost of the chemotherapy, hospital stays and driving back and forth once a week also takes its financial toll.

Now, Gage is undergoing maintenance, which means he will receive chemotherapy, but not as often. He'll be in remission.

The family also has the stress of their jobs.

Gage's father works in the oil industry and is constantly on the road.

Gage's mother now works as a specials needs teacher and counselor at Schorlemmer Elementary School.

Before the job, she was at Patti Welder Magnet Middle School, but had to resign because of the frequent doctor visits, she said.

"We're so spread out," Gage's father said. "We're being taken into every direction."

The family has gotten through the ordeal because of the success of Gage's chemotherapy, their close-knit family and friends.

Because Gage's mother works in the Victoria school district's West Community, the family made T-shirts with a "Gage's Warriors" logo on it.

"It feels good to have people wanting to help you," Gage's mother said. "You don't even think this is ever going to happen to you."



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